While the 1980s had its share of sweet sitcom families the decade also included way too many big concept shows.
These are programs where the premise fits into a one line elevator pitch or even better can be explained in the title. Think She’s the Sheriff (there was a she, played by Suzanne Somers) and she was in fact a sheriff) or Mama’s Family, a pretty awful piece of dreck where Vick Lawrence wore cheap old-age makeup to play the titular character.
A number of big concept shows involved adopted kids. Punky Brewster was about an old man adopting a young girl (which did not seem creepy back then) and Webster was about rich white people adopting the black child of an old football teammate. Small Wonder fits squarely into the “wacky adoption, big concept” category, but it’s more ridiculous than the other entrees in the genre.
The elevator pitch: What if an engineer created a robot little girl and raised her as his daughter.
On one level it’s not a bad idea. The problem is that the premise only works for the show if the creators let you know the little girl is a robot and then maybe offer a few tells every now and then while the girl otherwise passes. That is not in any way what happened here.
In Small Wonder the little girl, V.I.C.I. (Voice Input Child Indenticant) was so obviously a robot that absolutely nobody would be fooled for even a second. Besides the fact that she had super strength and intelligence, she also talked like a robot. She didn’t talk a little bit robotic, she talked like a stereotypical “I am a robot,” robot.
Amazingly this show lasted four years, from 1985 to 1989 — giving it three more seasons than My So Called Life or Freaks & Geeks. It’s hard to imagine who enjoyed watching the same plot each week — someone suspected Vici might be a robot (which she clearly was) and something wacky happened to convince them she was not.
Still, all of this might have worked had it been even a tiny but tongue in cheek. Instead, it was hopelessly earnest in a way that made it very hard to not scream at your screen every time someone did not ask why the little girl was clearly a robot.
Small Wonder was voted the worst sitcom of all time by PopCrunch and it shows up on lots of other lists of the worst shows ever. Do you agree? Can you possibly defend the show? Or, do you just have a series to suggest which was even worse.
Share your comments below.